The boat from Como zigzags its way up the lake, and about an hour later it stops at the island of Comacino. My friend and I decided to get off and explore the island, so we paid our €5 at the hut for permission to walk around, and set off to look at Roman ruins, an artists’s colony, woods and an old church, with lovely views along the way, and apparently nobody but us walking round the island. After an hour we began to feel hungry so we followed the path up to the only restaurant. Then we found where everyone had gone! Mysteriously, each group of people sitting round a table had another empty table next to it. We soon found out why.
A waiter promptly bought a bottle of wine and water, and I protested that we hadn’t ordered it. “You have what you’re given” was the gist of the reply so we sat there, victims of 5 courses served “with love” which meant lots of hugging and the odd kiss on the cheek. There were 8 plates of antipasti on our spare table to accompany the ham and bresaola. Our affectionate waiter then brought a whole trout each, followed by fried chicken and salad. The cheese course was a half moon of Parmesan passed round for us to dig out pieces with a fork, then there was the dolce, amaretti ice cream with sliced oranges in peach syrup. Only at this point did we notice that the staff had cleverly arranged for everyone to finish at the same time, despite frequent calls for a “pausa”.
The owner (strangely wearing a woolly hat in a temperature of 37 and tartan waistcoat) rang a very large cow bell and marched to a central table where a cauldron of coffee was boiling away. He explained that there was a curse on the island and his restaurant would lift the curse by creating fire for every guest. The Archbishop of Como had cursed the island 1,000 years ago and two previous owners of this restaurant had died in mysterious circumstances. He then lit brandy, the flames surged dramatically, and incredibly sweet strong coffee was served to everyone.
We staggered back down the hill to the landing jetty in time for the last boat. So far, the curse has had no effect except a certain bloated feeling.